Catcher – Christian Vazquez
While the likes of Sean Murphy, one of the Blue Jays catchers, or Willson Contreras would carry more buzz for the Cardinals, Christian Vazquez may be the closest player to Yadier Molina they could get for 2023.
Nicknamed “Mini Yadi” by former Cardinal Joe Kelly, Vazquez would provide the Cardinals with a great defensive backstop, league average hitter, and two-time World Series champion behind the plate. In 2022, Vazquez ranked 7th among catchers with a 14.4 Def on FanGraphs, a statistic that measures a players defensive value considering their position and production, with his number ranking him in the second highest tier of defense “great”.
Vazquez posted a 99 wRC+ while posting a slash line of .274/.315/.399 with 9 HR and 52 RBI. This makes time just 1 point below a league average hitter, which the catcher position is notorious for being significantly below league average. So the Cardinals would get an above-average hitter as far as catchers go, as well as one of the best defenders at the position.
MLB Trade Rumors projects a 3 year, $27 million deal for Vazquez this off-season. That would be $1 million less than Molina made in his final year with the Cardinals, while providing significantly more value that Molina did most of 2022. Not only did Vazquez have a 1.9 higher WAR than Molina did last season, but he was also able catch 108 games last season, which would have been higher had he not been traded to the Astros who already had another quality starting option as well in Martin Maldonado.